The 2023 Major League Baseball season is now in the rearview mirror. Baseball won’t be played for just under five months with the 2024 season scheduled to begin in late March. Teams will have between now and then to make adjustments to their rosters to prepare for the upcoming campaign. Here’s a look at the top names that teams will have their bid at when they hit the free agency market this winter.
Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH
A torn UCL may be the reason why Ohtani won’t be receiving a $500 million contract this offseason, but even when not considering his pitching abilities, he is the best batter available in this year’s free agent class. We may not see Ohtani take the mound in 2024, but whatever team adds his bat is sure to benefit drastically. The 29-year-old phenom slashed a career-best .304/.412/.654 and was valued at 6.0 wins above replacement last season as a batter alone. He slugged 44 homers and drove in 95 runs for an Angels team that couldn’t get over the hump last year. In his career, Ohtani has been stellar on the bump: he owns a career 3.01 earned run average to go with a 1.08 WHIP. He’s struck out 608 batters over 481.2 career innings. He’s a generational talent and all eyes will be on which team he lands with this offseason.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto, RHP
Yamamoto is set to become available to MLB teams once the Orix Buffaloes of the Nippon Professional Baseball post him in the upcoming weeks. The Japanese phenom was remarkable for Orix this season, going 17-6 with a 1.16 ERA. He struck out 176 batters over 171.0 innings, walking just 28. In his professional career, Yamamoto is 75-30 with a remarkable 1.72 ERA. In his final performance last season, Yamamoto struck out 14 batters over a complete game to help Orix force a decisive game seven of the Japan Series. The 14 K’s set the record for the most in the Series. He’s perhaps the biggest Japanese free agent since Ohtani himself and will be a major asset for whichever team is able to acquire his services.
Blake Snell, LHP
Snell is set to cash in with a major payday after posting his best season since joining the San Diego Padres. After recording a 3.38 ERA in 2022, “Snellzilla” one-upped himself with a 2.25 ERA last season, the second-best ERA in a season of his career. He also managed to go 14-9 last campaign, marking his best win percentage in a 162-game season since 2018. Though he allowed a Major League-high 99 walks, he was among the best strikeout arms in baseball with 234 K’s during the season. It’ll be interesting to see which franchise Snell lands with as he enters the latter-half of his professional career.
Cody Bellinger, CF/1B
Bellinger bet on himself last offseason by signing a one-year “prove-it” deal with the Cubs in hopes of rebuilding his value with a strong showing last season. To say that he was correct would be a severe understatement, as Bellinger responded from two bad years with the Dodgers with his best season since he won the National League MVP award in 2019. Over 130 games, the OF/1B slashed .307/.356/.525, swatting 26 home runs and driving in 97 runs. He also recorded 29 doubles and stole a career-high 20 bases. It seems that Bellinger is in line to receive a substantial multi-year deal after a special rebound campaign in Chicago.
Aaron Nola, RHP
Although 2023 was by no means the best season in Nola’s career, he’s been a stable arm in Philadelphia for years; he’s recorded 32 or more starts in every full-length season since 2018. Though his 4.46 ERA last season won’t amaze anyone, he is just one season removed from a year in which he tallied a 3.25 ERA and supported a 3.72 ERA over his entire career. Nola still ranked amongst the best strikeout arms in the game with the fifth 200+ K season of his career and the Phillies went 19-13 in games in which he started. It’s tough to imagine him in a uniform other than the Phillies’, but we’ve seen crazier things unravel during free agency.